One of the biggest delights of my local Goodwill Outlet Center is the book bin. Or rather, bins, as there are usually three or more, all full of books and magazines of every sort for book lovers like myself to dig through. I never fail to find something of interest, and my latest trip produced a 1974 copy of The Great Gatsby, complete with photos of Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, Roy Rogers and the Outlaws of Sundown Valley, a 1950 Whitman book, and the nondescript looking book pictured above, Modern Ballroom Dancing by Lillian Ray.
Published in 1930, the illustrations show that transitional period of clothing between what people think of the Roaring Twenties and the Depression Thirties. Some skirts are still short, but others have moved downward to the calf, and still others are a combination of the two lengths.
People who study fashion history know that styles don’t abruptly end at the ending of a decade. For matters of simplicity, it is often convenient to call a dress “1920s style” or “1930s style” but in the real world of clothes it is not always that easy. I’ve seen a lot of confusing clothes from the late 1920s and early 1930s. It’s not always a cut and dried science.
I was intrigued to read the words of Catherine Martin (in interview with Fashionista), the costume designer of the soon to be released The Great Gatsby film from her husband Baz Luhrmann:
One of the other rules Baz made at the very beginning of the project was that, because the book is set in the summer of ’22, published in ’25, and foreshadows the crash of ’29, we were actually allowed to use the whole decade as a reference base.
People are already talking about how the clothes in the film sure don’t look like the 1920s, and it occurred to me several weeks ago that it looked more like 1929 or 1930. It’s interesting to note that was, in part, intentional. Martin took the range of ten years and pulled what fit into what she wanted the character to portray.
I’ve already said this here, but I’m not in any way going to go to The Great Gatsby thinking it is an historical depiction of 1925. It would drive me crazy. Instead, like the life with Daisy that Gatsby has formed in his mind, this is a fantasy.
Looks easy, no?
All illustrations from Modern Ballroom Dancing by Lillian Ray, Franklin Publishing Company, 1930, illustrator not credited.